Cash confiscated from loan sharks benefits community projects
Cash confiscated from convicted loan sharks has been awarded to local projects after a U Decide vote to benefit the community and highlight the dangers of loan sharks. The England Illegal Money Lending Team, working in partnership with local authority trading standards teams provided the ill-gotten gains taken from illegal lenders to local communities.
The initative took place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in Newcastle under Lyme.
More than 450 online votes were cast and 60 residents cast their votes in person during an event held yesterday at Riverside Community Health Project, to decide which projects would receive the funding.
Each of following projects received £500:
Benwell Young Peoples Development Group: Will create a week of awareness on the dangers of loan sharks, and highlighting credit unions as an alternative at Patchwork. Young people will create awareness raising posters. The cash will be used to purchase piggy banks to encourage saving, plus gloves, mugs and coats with the hotline number for reporting loan sharks and the slogan ‘ask me about the credit union’. These will be worn by youth workers who walk the streets for 2 hour sessions at a time, talking and building relationships with local young people, parents and families.
Riverside Community Health Project: Will fund 25 credit union accounts for new and existing members adding a £20 bonus to those who save.
Success for all: The West End Young Digital Artists group, will create comic storyboards on a framed canvas to bring awareness to their families and peers about the dangers of loan sharks. They will work with a professional from the video games industry to develop their interpersonal, creative and media skills.
The Millin Centre: Will bring together residents from the local community who come from a range of different background to design and create posters which will describe what a loan shark is and reasons to avoid loan sharks. Although the key messages will be the same, the group will use their bilingual skills and own terminology to write the messages in a range of different languages including Urdu, Bangladeshi, Arabic and Farsi to ensure the messages reach the wider community.
West End Women: Will develop a credit union collection point for women and families in Elswick, to help encourage a savings culture.
Your Homes Newcastle Financial Inclusion Team: Will raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks by holding advice sessions during a school fayre or parent evening, and also fund credit union accounts, as an incentive to encourage people to save.
Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader and lead for Financial Inclusion at Newcastle City Council, said: "I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this amazing event. The successful candidates have all shown innovative ways in which we can all work together to tackle illegal money lending and the loan sharks who continue to cause pain to some of our city's most vulnerable people and communities. Congratulations to the six lucky organisations and I am looking forward to hearing more about their projects."
Newcastle under Lyme:
The England Illegal Money Lending Team, working in partnership with Staffordshire County Council and Aspire Housing provided the ill-gotten gains taken from illegal lenders to local communities, with more than 100 residents deciding which projects would receive the funding, during an event held on Monday.
Salvation Army were chosen as the overall winner receiving £1000 worth of loan shark’s confiscated cash. They will use this funding to continue to run a lone parent support group who give each other peer support in relation to issues including loan sharks. The group would like to give out stickers to members of the community warning them not to turn to loan sharks.
Each of following projects also received £500:
Dangling Carrot Youth Group will fund stickers bearing the 0300 555 2222 hotline number, to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks throughout the community.
Keele University Students’ Union placed two bids. Firstly they will fund workshops on the danger of loan sharks, with representatives from the banks talking about the safe and legal savings accounts, loan options and free student overdrafts.
Secondly they will pay for the publication of a financial management webpage connected to Keele, looking at issues around budgeting and the risks of illegal loans, with important links, contact details and positive stories and advice on savings and budgeting.
Bardwell Village Resident will fund leaflets raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks, promote alternatives such as the credit union and encourage financial management and budgeting.
Pool fields Residents Association will fund stickers with the 0300 555 2222 hotline to be displayed on wheelie bins on major roads and in deprived areas.
The Reginald Mitchell Primary School will supply children with drinking water bottles which will bear a logo telling of the dangers of loan sharks. They also plan to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks through their website and in letters to parents.
Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for communities Pat Corfield said: “We work closely with the Illegal Money Lending Team to alert people to the criminal activity and potential misery loan sharks can bring.
“They often target people who think there is nowhere else to turn when they are in need of financial assistance which is a despicable thing to do. This time of year in particular people may be struggling with debt and may turn to illegal money lenders in desperation.
“This is a great initiative in that it is taking back money from criminals for communities and will help combat illegal money lenders in the future. We want people to know they should avoid approaches by these criminals. They should contact the illegal money lending team on 0300 555 2222 to report this crime or Citizens’ Advice for help on other financial matters on 08444 111 444.”
Paul Malkin,Income Maximisation Manager at Aspire Housing said ““Aspire housing are committed to making an impact on the lives of people that live within the communities in which we work, the Illegal Money Lending Team can help us to change people’s lives by removing the loan sharks that can destroy lives.”
Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions leading to more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “These events have been hugely positive with the extorted cash being put to excellent use. Thanks to everyone who attended or entered a bid- you have contributed to making a difference and tackling this crime in your community. Loan sharks are a scourge on society and cause harm and misery to their victims, but we are continuing to tackle them in Newcastle and across the country. We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222”
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Teams, Safety at Ports and the National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.
Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams; England, Scotland and Wales. Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. The project piloted in 2004, and expanded in 2007.